6 Principles of US Import Protocol

Unsafe imports can mean many different things.  Just ask my colleague Chris, who purchased a set of inexpensive deck-chairs made in a foreign country.  Those were unsafe.  You can imagine the rest.

Unsafe imports were on the minds of US Agency heads last week, and they weren’t talking deck chairs per se but about the larger safety issues associated with import/export.  Senior leaders from 10 federal agencies met in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 21 .  There, they addressed past, current, and future efforts to protect the health & safety of both the American consumer and the environment from unsafe imports.  Participating agencies are listed at bottom of this post.

Import / export of chemical substance. Risk Managers have a tough time of it.  Consider import and export laws regarding chemical management.  In 2008, EPA published the Compliance Guide for Chemical Import Requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA.  Short version is that EPA regulates certain chemical substances and mixtures under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including chemical import and export.

The United States Customs and Border Protection monitors chemical imports regulated under TSCA section 13. Custom and Border Protection rules (19 CFR 12.118 to 12.128 and 127.28) (also: 40 CFR 707.20) require certification from the importer such as:

  1. positive certification — the shipment complies with TSCA and all applicable rules and orders
  2. negative certification — the shipment is not subject to TSCA

TSCA section 13 certification applies to TSCA sections 5, 6, and 7.  In addition, importers may have obligations under TSCA section 4, which covers testing, and/or section 8 which covers reporting and record-keeping.  In terms of exporting chemicals, TSCA Section 12(b) and 40 CFR Part 707 requires EPA to notify importing countries of the export of chemicals or mixtures if they are subject to certain rules and orders; also requiring notification are certain products containing PCBs or asbestos.
Six general principles of import safety in America. The agency leaders affirmed their commitment to import safety by agreeing to six key principles thereof.  These six principles provide a foundation for further collaboration between participating agencies.

EPA pointed out that all participating agencies are in some way charged with protecting American consumers from unsafe imports.

The six principles of import safety — as agreed to by 10 U.S. federal agencies — are:

1.     The creation of an interagency forum of senior representatives dedicated to import safety cooperation

2.     Continued commitment to information sharing across federal agencies involved in import safety concerns

3.     Enhanced efforts to help the private sector comply with import safety requirements

4.     Development of common systems to exchange information

5.     Strong, consistent enforcement measures to deter imports of unsafe products

6.     The use of risk-management strategies to streamline lawful trade

Goal: to achieve the common mission of protecting American consumers from unsafe imports.

Participating agencies. The new group includes executives from:

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE?)
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Food and Drug Administration or FDA
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • National Marine Fisheries Service

It’s quite a lineup.  Will be interesting to see what comes of it.


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About Kal

Kal Kawar, CIH, PE, has a bachelor's in chemical engineering and a master's in industrial hygiene. His professional experience includes serving as staff industrial hygienist for IBM's New York semiconductor manufacturing facility, and as industrial hygienist for IBM’s US headquarters. Now executive vice president of Actio, Kal taps more than 20 years' worth of chemical engineering, industrial hygiene, and environmental engineering experience. His far-reaching expertise with global regulatory challenges created by EPA, TSCA, REACH, RoHS, WEEE – and hundreds of others – aid in developing Actio software solutions for MSDS management, raw material disclosure compliance, and product stewardship in a supply chain.